Zambian Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu
The trial of two men accused of sodomy in Zambia has been delayed as the country’s Minister of Home Affairs tells gay rights activists to “go to hell”.
Barber Philip Mubiana (21) and bricklayer James Mwape (20) have been charged with having “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”.
The men, from the town of Kapiri Mposhi, have also been accused of marrying each other and of living as “man and wife”.
Local media reported that the suspects had undergone medical tests at Kapiri Mposhi District Hospital against their will to “prove” that they had engaged in anal sex.
The couple appeared in court today to face the charges against them. Sapa-AFP reported that the men’s lawyer managed to successfully argue for an adjournment in the case.
“We wish to raise constitutional issues which we shall submit to your court for determination,” he was quoted as saying.
The case was postponed to June 5 but the judge refused to release the men on bail as he feared they would interfere with a witness.
It is believed that a relative or a neighbour reported the couple to the authorities. The men face up to 14 years in jail if found guilty.
The case, as well as the recent arrest of Zambian LGBT and HIV activist Paul Kasonkomona for speaking on national TV in favour of gay rights has outraged human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch said that the Zambian government is obligated under international law and its own constitution to respect the private lives and personal liberties of everyone in the country, and to cease prosecuting people for consensual adult sex.
“It’s bad enough that Zambia wants to prosecute these two men for homosexual acts, but to subject them to invasive examinations is just outrageous,” said Monica Tabengwa, researcher in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“The authorities should immediately drop the charges and free them, and stop bringing such cases,” she said,
In response, Zambian Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu dismissed the calls to decriminalise homosexuality out of hand.
“There will be no such discussion on gay rights. That issue is foreign to this country,” he was quoted as saying by Zambia Reports.
“Those advocating gay rights should go to hell. That is not an issue we will tolerate,” he said.
Kasonkomona’s trial was also postponed after his lawyer also argued that the charges against his client were in conflict with the constitution and that the case should be heard by a higher court.
Kasonkomona is set to appear in court again on June 4 for the magistrate to rule on this argument.